A Decade of Earth First! Action in the “Climate Movement”

By The Earth First! Journal

Post-Rondy action in shutting down a coal plant in Carbo, Virginia, 200 by  Earth First! Journal

The last ten years of ecological organizing under the Earth First! banner saw a significant shift in movement focus. Where defending old growth forests had taken center stage for much of the 90′s and early 2000′s, the fight against resource extraction became a defining characteristic of the last decade. What follows is a timeline highlighting Earth First! (EF!) participation in what has been referred to by some as the climate movement.

While EF! has never succumbed to the narrow fixation on counting carbon molecules as a strategy to save the planet, it has certainly played a role in shaping the so-called “climate movement” and inspiring the flurry of climate-centered organizing, particularly across the US and the UK.

We offer this retrospective as a reflection on movement evolution, a celebration of some amazing victories, and for any new-comers to EF!, an action packed introduction.

For those unfamiliar with EF!, it is a decentralized, non-hierarchical movement. Most EF! groups are small numbers of individuals who organize and act as they see fit. While EF! has never explicitly been an anarchist movement, its structure could easily be described as anarchistic.

The EF! movement recognizes anyone who believes in deep ecology, direct action and a no compromise strategy, and chooses to identify themselves as an Earth First!er. As such, we make no pretenses that this is a comprehensive timeline of EF! actions.

Without further ado…

  • The Womyn's action group poses for a photo at the 2004 Straw Devil Action Camp in the Willamette National Forest. This camp is seen as the origin of TWACThe Womyn’s action group poses for a photo at the 2004 Straw Devil Action Camp in the Willamette National Forest. This camp is seen as the origin of TWAC

    Ten years ago, the legendary forest defense campaigns of the Pacific Northwest were in full effect, including the six-year long Fall Creek canopy occupation in Oregon declaring victory (remaining uncut to this day) and the formation of TWAC (Trans’ and/or Women’s Action Camp) at Straw Devil. This forest defense movement led by EF!ers pioneered blockade tactics which would become central to groups like Tar Sands Blockade in Texas. This Portland IMC  post from November 2003 gives a glimpse of how much was going on at the time.

  •  Also in Nov 2003, activists organized to confront the FTAA Summit in Miami as part of the broad based global justice movement, which laid the foundation for the climate justice movement to come. Earth First! organizers played key roles in providing direct action trainings and mobilization infrastructure (as they had also done in previous global justice protests in Seattle, DC, and abroad.) Check out Miami Model film about the FTAA.
  • In July 2004, EF! took action against Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals in Maine, trashing the Governor’s mansion and blockading his driveway! Six were arrested, but the pressure was on and LNG plans off the coast were defeated soon after.

Logging road blocked to Biscuit timber sale, 2005

  • Throughout the summer and spring of 2005, EF!ers executed direct actions in the areas proposed for massive logging plans in the aftermath of the 2002 Biscuit Fire of southern Oregon. This campaign sparked national dialogue about post-fire ecology and industry’s drive to exploit catastrophic weather events. Lessons from the Biscuit Fire in relation to climate change, land use policy and the increase of future fires is a topic which is still being studied by ecologists today.
  • Feb 2006, EF! organizers attended their annual US winter gathering, where the Earth First! Climate Caucus was formed. [Read their founding statement here.] By May of 2006, the EF! Climate Caucus had become Rising Tide North America, and announced a call to action targeting the coming G8 Summit with “climate justice”-focused direct action. They immediately garnered the attention of major security firms like StratFor, as evidenced in this article. In the years to come, RTNA often collaborated with EF! organizers on various relevant actions.
  • In 2007, many EF!ers focused on opposing the construction of I-69, a NAFTA Superhighway for transnational carbon-spewing truck traffic to tear up forests and farm land across southern Indiana. That July, following the EF! Rendezvous, “Hayduke’s Moving Company” staged mock evictions, dumping the contents out of I-69 planning offices and into the street in Petersburg and Oakland City, and activists shut down the I-69 planning office in Bloomington. By the following year, EF! was camped out along the route with a full time treesit blockade in the way of construction. This was one among dozens of direct actions against the road.
  • Everglades EF!ers enter a gator infested swamp under the noses of cops and security to expose the evils of FPLEverglades EF!ers enter the gator-infested Barley Barber swamp under the noses of cops and security to expose the evils of FPL

    In Feb 2008, EF!ers in the Everglades blockaded a hotly-contended FPL construction site where the largest fossil fuel power plant in the US was being built. Twenty-six were arrested, and most all went to trial using the “necessity defense,” bringing experts—including a climatologist and hydrologist—to testify about the regional and global threats. This direct action campaign against FPL continued into the following year with several blockades and disruptions, including an encampment resulting from a stand-off over public access to an imperiled old-growth swamp which FPL claimed to own.

  • EF!ers occupy AMP Ohio offices against coal plant plansEF!ers occupy AMP Ohio offices against coal plant plans

    In July 2008, EF! again ended their annual summer gathering by taking over the corporate office of AMP Ohio, a company proposing a new coal plant in Meigs County.

  • August 2009 and again in January 2010, members of Climate Ground Zero (founded by EF! co-founder Mike Roselle) treesit to halt blasting on a mountain top removal site in West Virginia and physically stop the permanent destruction of mountains.
  • Police defend TransCanada wind turbine from EF!, 2010Police defend TransCanada wind turbine from EF!, 2010

    In July 2010, EF! pushed the envelope by taking direct action against big wind energy plans in Maine. The turbines were being located in endangered species habitat of the Canada lynx, and they were being built by none other than TransCanada (of Keystone XL fame) as an attempt to greenwash their tar sands operations.

  • In Feb 2011, EF! activists made the climate-forest connection again, this time in Florida, where nearly 700 acres of pine flatwoods and wetlands (some of the most productive carbon-storing ecosystems) were slated to be bulldozed for a massive biotech research complex. A six-week canopy occupation in Briger forest brought attention to the plans and, thanks to EF! activists, the forest is still standing today.
  • In June of 2012 EF!ers hold a barricade in Jersey Shore, PA against AquaAmerica, who evicted residents to place a frack-water withdrawal facility on the Susquehanna river. The blockade is ultimately evicted but the fight galvanized regional opposition to fracking.
  • In January 2013 the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands is signed by traditional indigenous societies and later ratified by Oglala Sioux and Northern Cheyenne governments. It is also signed by environmental groups and EF!ers (video link)
  • In February 2013, following the Winter OC/Rondy, EF!ers shut down operations at GreenHunter waste water storage site (video link.). A crucial link in the life-cycle of resource extraction in high volume slick water horizontal hydraulic fracture drilling, GreenHunter has been applying for permits to barge their radioactive filth down the Ohio River. Due to this and other direct actions and mounting public pressure the Ohio legislature has a bill to ban injection wells.
  • In Oct 2013, Marcellus EF! Loyalsock Forest treesit in PA went into three weeks of occupying a site planned for an Andarko fracking operation. The operation is now on hold indefinitely (video).
  • EF!ers Blockading tar sands megaloads in OregonEF!ers Blockading tar sands megaloads in Oregon

    As this article is written, protests against tar sands megaload shipments in Eastern Oregon and Idaho by RTNA and the EF!ers of Cascadia Forest Defenders blockade roads in protest of refining equipment’s transport…

While the anti-extraction movement has gone global and is lead by dozens if not hundreds of localized resistance efforts, the Earth First! Newswire has been providing some of the most widespread and consistent coverage of this effort since 2010, including deep analysis and movement strategy discussions.

This February, join us in the Everglades for a week of camping, sharing, learning, face to face discussions and action at the annual EF! Organizer’s Conference and Winter Rendezvous.  We also extend the invitation add more events to this timeline throughout the week.

EF! Blockade in Elliot State Forest, 2009EF! Blockade in Elliot State Forest, 2009

And this summer, EF! returns to Southern Cascadia

On that note, we could use your support in keeping the heat on. You can support the Earth First! movement by donating to the Earth First! Journal here. Thanks to all who have supported us in the past.

We look forward to seeing you in the struggle!

For the wild,

- Earth First! Journal Collective

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